2020 rushed in and we kicked off the 1st day of the New Year with…what else?! A hike!

Joined by my sister and her family, our group headed back to Glen Meadows for some bracing air and open sky. We got both in spades, along with a fresh perspective.

Armed with a special scavenger hunt, the kids were motivated and ready to take on the trail. On the lookout for –

  • beaver activity
  • cattails
  • ski-lift remnants
  • black willow
  • staghorn sumac
  • birch grove

they had their work cut out for them. Not only did they find all 6, but they hiked the whole trail. No small feat for 8 small feet!

If you recall, we had previously visited (and reviewed!) Glen Meadow in full-bore Spring fever. Mid-May had us head over heels, soaking up the dramatic views and the blossoming landscape.

Fast- forward 8-months : January. The skeletal flip-side to the beaming face of Spring.

Now barren and bleached, we found the landscape had changed more than expected.

Back in May, we gawked at the meadows immense black willow trees. Like IIvermorny’s own Whomping Willow, the largest’s limbs and leaves stretched crooked fingers towards Greylock. On our Winter return, the Whomper lay bowed and broken. The entire front portion of the tree had split away, most likely during a wind storm.

Used historically for both for medicinal purposes and weaving, willow trees have symbolized both healing and flexibility. In the Spring, we had sat under those giant branches, refueling and breathing in the mountain views. It had calmed our energies.

Although in Winter those branches were found rent and fractured, the willow now let us climb and explore.

Black Willow’s Lesson : Take 5. Breathe. Be flexible – bend – and if it breaks, improvise.

Within the paper birch grove, we found less profound change, but still an altered landscape.

Birch is a cold-climate tree, hardy and adaptable. The grove was stripped, all it’s golden leaves long gone. Against the starkness of the snow, the paper birch trunks leapt out like icicles in a dull landscape. The steely, dark mountains loomed in shadow, creating a sharp, wintry vignette. Birch trees are one of the first to sprout on bare ground, providing protection for other species to grow and are often some of the first to bud after a forest fire.

Birch trees symbolize new beginnings, regeneration, hope, and the promise of things to come. Winter can seem long and drawn out, with it’s stillness and dormancy reigning supreme. But life lurks just under the surface, biding its time; waiting for the lengthening of days and the returning warmth; to bust out and show it’s stuff. As the naturalist Edwin Way Teale said, ” The stillness, the seeming death of winter, is but an illusion. Life retreats and is triumphant again.”

Paper Birch’s Lesson : Dream big. Lead with love. Take your time. Stay true to your roots and trust in the journey.

Glen Meadows wasn’t better during our warm Spring visit, no more so than January’s Winter adventure overtook May’s. Much like the seasons we visited in, each offered us different opportunities for a unique perspective. When we stopped to be still in our present moment, the beauty of each vantage point was revealed. Revisiting natural environments throughout all four seasons can help to remind us to look outside of our stagnant views and embrace inevitable change.

With a goal for 50 hikes in 2020 laid out on our horizon, the achievement is the easy part. The real challenge lies in the present moment. It’s easy to get caught up in a numbers game and checking off of boxes. Experiencing the here and now becomes the true test. Winter in its vast vacancy reminds us to keep it simple. The restrictive boundaries we set up for ourselves are currently borderless, blanketed in limitless snow. While the hills are naked and the blue sky is wide, seek clarity, not completion, in your aims and explorations.

Scroll through for more pictures from our First Day Adventure!

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Photo Credit for many of these photos goes to Kira Smith, a Berkshire artist, activist, and alchemistress. For more about her and her work : The Shire Witch and Smith and Spindle.